Summary: I did a survey asking the following question: What are your usual coping mechanisms? Here are new ways to cope with today’s stress.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
Is the world moving faster? Perhaps it’s just me?
Nah, I understand that we have more technology to give us information at warp speed. Thus, we know more (or at least get more information faster).
I took the time to do your survey about coping during times of change. I tend to stuff down my concerns and pretend all is fine.
As you suggest, that is not the best way to stay healthy.
Excessive stress is higher when change is constant.
However, my latest physical exam showed my blood pressure to be higher than usual. When the doc asked me how I handled the stress, I smiled and said, “No problem, I just ignore what is upsetting me.”
He handed me a copy of your book, “Invisible Stress,” and told me to read it cover to cover (glad it’s only 90 pages) and then see him again.
I did all that, and now I am hungry for even more ways to cope with today’s challenges and keep my blood pressure healthy.
Any new ideas you have are very welcome.
Dear Staying Healthy,
Good for you looking for the best ways to de-stress and keep your blood pressure in the safe zone.
Most importantly, you must look at stress reactions and decide what helps and hinders your health and well-being.
All in all, the responses I received were in just a few categories. It went from “Eating junk food” to “Playing games online” to “Binge-watching “The Crown” to “Mixing a batch of martinis” or variations on these comments.
Indulge means doing something more than is healthy.
Above all, most responses were about indulging in one way or another. Indulging means participating in an undesirable or disapproved activity and doing it too often.
I hear you saying, “Zip it and no preaching, please. Not now. Not when I must adjust to life changes that I didn’t choose. I want some comfort. Is that so bad?”
Nope, not bad at all.
Although, maybe, just maybe, there are more positive ways to spend your time.
We tend to indulge when fear is standing in front of us.
We retreat to indulgences when we feel threatened and want to run to a safe, familiar place for survival.
That brings me to a Cherokee legend we all need to consider. When crises and change are upon us, we have choices.
I believe indigenous wisdom can provide comfort and guidance in these trying times.
Hence, this shortened version of the Two Wolves story is here to help when stress becomes dis-stress.
There are two wolves, and they are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair, the other light and hope.
Which one wins?
The one you feed!
Listen closely, and you can hear LIFE requesting you to use the reset button. Right here and right now.
In other words, life is demanding you think differently and change your habits. Stop indulging.
Here’s a way to think about which wolf you are feeding here and now and what you can do differently.
The two wolves are the survival brain and the creative brain.
In short, there is within you the survival brain to keep you alive no matter what. And there is the creative brain to help you with more effective ways of responding to challenges.
For example, the survival brain is vital for safety. It is in the brain stem and the limbic system. Its goal is to keep you out of harm’s way.
As an illustration, a key player is the amygdala (what I have named Amy Hijack). It’s responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events. It then sends a message of “danger here” to the hypothalamus to trigger a fight or flight response.
The emotions in the survival brain include anxiety, anger, disappointment, shame, revenge, regret, and blame.
Indeed, many of us live there most of the time.
On the other hand, the creative brain is in the frontal cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and white matter.
The emotions here include curiosity, peacefulness, empathy, joy, calmness, ability to plan, fun, and gratitude.
You choose how to respond by knowing your ingrained patterns.
Which area of the brain do you want to feed?
In addition, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, said it best. Known as Hebb’s law: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” And that means, with enough repetitions, your thoughts and behaviors become ingrained patterns.
Now, that’s a game-changer.
Adapt and adjust are the keys to healthy living in times of change.
What does this mean to you? Yes, you. Are you going through changing times that require you to adapt and adjust?
It means, in a short sentence, “The more we move away from fear and defeat and move toward curiosity and exploration, the more we feed the creative brain.”
Which part of your brain do you want to feed right now?
In conclusion, keep an eye out for my brand new masterclass, “How to Practice Safe Stress During Times of Distress,” and learn the mental/emotional exercises to feed the part of your brain that will support better health and more happiness.
Here’s to your success,
PS. Please accept a copy of the introduction to Invisible Stress as my gift to help you get past the need to indulge in old, outdated ways of living in a stress-filled world. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally, I promise.